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Rob Ninkovich on training camp: ‘This is where you set the tone for the season’

07.23.14 at 12:39 pm ET
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FOXBORO –  Ever since Rob Ninkovich signed with New England prior to the 2009 season, he’s been one of the most consistent players on the Patriots defense. The defensive end has been durable and versatile — a player who can be depended on each and every week.

Ninkovich has been inactive for just one game in his five seasons, and that occurred during his first season. Including the postseason, he has played in 79 straight games.

For an eight-year veteran, training camp might be a tedious few weeks, but not for Ninkovich, who knows it’s the building block for having a successful season.

“You have to go through it to get to the ultimate goal, and that’s having a winning season,” Ninkovich said. “This is the time that you put in — the hard work, it all pays off. Being an older guy, I’ve been through the doubles, all the hard days before. I know what they are like, so I know what to expect. This is where you set the tone for the season.”

With the addition of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to a team that is coming off an AFC championship game loss last season, expectations are high for this year’s team. This is nothing new for Ninkovich, who has played in nine playoff games in his career.

“I know what the expectations are, but every year there are always high expectations just because we’re on one of the best teams in the NFL,” he said.

As for his personal outlook on the season, like his consistent and dependable play on the field during his time in New England, Ninkovich keeps it simple, as he just wants to improve on the season prior.

“For me personally, there’s always an expectation for what I did the previous season,” the 30-year-old said. “I’m always trying to improve and be a better football player. That’s every year of experience you get, you want to maximize your abilities and continue to improve as you get older because everyone knows when you get older your speed and talent fades away, but experience grows. I’d say that my experiences here have helped me become a better football player and more productive on the field. Goals for me this year are just be a better football player than I was last year.”

Ninkovich, the longest-tenured member of the defense aside from Vince Wilfork, once again will be relied upon as a three-down player who can move all over the field.

“I’m 30. I still feel young, but when they put the nine next to you at experience, that puts you up there,” he said.

Last season, due to a number of injuries to teammates, Ninkovich was forced to play more than 90 percent of the defensive snaps, which is a fairly high percentage for a defensive end of his age. He doesn’t pay attention to those things, though, as he’s just out there to make plays for the team.

“I’m not a guy to make any excuses, so whatever amount of plays I’m out on the field for I need to be out there and play well,” he said. “So whatever it is, it is I’ll go out there and I’ll make plays.”

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